Where: Glen Rock Inn, 222 Rock Road, Glen Rock
When: Thursday, 7-10 p.m.
How much: No music charge, $10 food or drink minimum. Call (201) 445-2362.
Waxing Poetic about his Guitar BY ZAN STEWART
Ask Jack Wilkins, the veteran bebop-and-beyond guitar heavyweight, what draws him to his instrument, and he has no shortage of reasons.
"I love the sound. It's very soothing," Wilkins, a Brooklyn native who lives in Manhattan, said. "I love the math of the guitar, the poetry. It's like a puzzle: how you negotiate the fingerboard, find ways to connect harmonies, add colors and variations on what you've played. It's really an inventive thing to do, and I love doing it."
Wilkins, 62, who has performed with giants such as Buddy Rich, Stan Getz and Dizzy Gillespie, plays Thursday in a duo with fellow guitar dynamo Howard Alden at the Glen Rock Inn in Glen Rock. He plays another duo with guitarist Gene Bertoncini on Jan. 26 at Shades of Hoboken (720 Monroe St., Hoboken, 888-374-2337).
Wilkins, whose Web site is www.jackwilkins.com, elaborated on how his sound, by turns rich and glowing, clear and ringing, affects him -- emotionally and physically.
"The sound seems to touch my inner self somewhere along the way," he said. "My body seems to calm down when I play, it seems to start to sing along when the music feels right -- and it mostly does."
It certainly does when he plays duets with Alden, a friend for 20 years and an occasional duo partner from the time they performed together about five years ago at the Long Island, N.Y., Guitar Show.
The guitarists have been duetting of late at the Glen Rock Inn. Their distinctive approaches, feel for rhythm, ear for melody, and capacity to anticipate what the other might do -- all tied together with virtuosic technique -- make for rewarding listening.
"Howard's a lot of fun," Wilkins said of his colleague. "He's a wonderful accompanist, he knows a million tunes, he's not afraid to let the music happen, just try things. I'm like that, too, so we're a very good match. We listen very well to each other."
When heard at Glen Rock, the pair regularly exchanged phrases, sometimes mimicking what the other played, sometimes one taking the other's remark and finding just the right response.
"It's a conversation," said Wilkins, whose CDs include 1992's "Mexico" (CTI) and 2002's "Jamba" (Past Perfect). "We both know when it feels like it can (take off). It's like we're both improvising at the same time, though it's actually (just one of us playing), then something else happens, and it's combined. We try to keep it inventive and interesting, for us -- and for the listener as well, I hope."
On the program Thursday will be some evergreen standards, like "Autumn Leaves," newer favorites like the bossa "Estate," maybe a jazz gem, say Chick Corea's "Windows," perhaps an original, such as Wilkins' "For Baden" -- dedicated to the Brazilian guitar ace Baden Powell.
Wilkins picked up guitar at about age 14, intrigued by its sound, and the sound that artists like Johnny Smith, Tal Farlow, Powell and others made with it. He started out playing rock, eventually moved to jazz. One career highlight occurred in 1974-75, when he worked with Rich's sextet. "He was great to play with, despite what people say," Wilkins said.
Looking over his close-to-50-year musical journey, Wilkins said he'd been fortunate being able to make a living playing music. "I like to play. That's the best part," he said.
Zan Stewart may be reached at email@example.com or at (973) 324-9930.
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Interview- Jack Wilkins